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New Zealand to wipe criminal records of people convicted of historical homosexual offences

'We stand tonight, as a Parliament, and we say: 'I'm sorry''

Xavier Greenwood
Tuesday 03 April 2018 18:48 BST
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The New Zealand parliament building where politicians voted to wipe criminal records of people convicted of historical homosexual offences
The New Zealand parliament building where politicians voted to wipe criminal records of people convicted of historical homosexual offences (REUTERS)

People convicted of homosexual offences in New Zealand are to have their criminal records wiped after a unanimous vote to clear them in the country's parliament.

Consensual sex between men aged 16 and over was decriminalised in 1986, but convictions for offences before that time remained on record and appeared in criminal history checks.

Nearly 1,000 men were found guilty of homosexual offences between 1965 and the legalisation of homosexuality in 1986.

"We stand tonight, as a Parliament, and we say: 'I'm sorry'," the country's finance minister Grant Robertson told parliament.

"As a man who has been able to live his life relatively freely as a homosexual male, as a person who is able to come to this Parliament and get heckled and abused by the National Party because I am the Finance Minister, not because I am a gay man."

He added: “The constant fear and the reminder of the worthlessness and the shame of your mere existence is not something we can put away so easily because it echoes through generations."

“Today we’ve expunged unjust historical homosexual offences. Today we are sorry,” the Minister of Justice Andrew Little tweeted after the bill was passed unanimously on its third reading.

The bill was brought by the previous government in 2017 after activist Wiremu Demchick petitioned Parliament on behalf of an unnamed friend who had been convicted of homosexual offences.

"This conviction still leads, after 53 years, to self-hatred, worthlessness, unjustified guilt and shame," the friend wrote.

The parliament formally apologised to those affected in July of last year, stating that it recognised “the tremendous hurt and suffering those men and their families have gone through, and the continued effects the convictions have had on them”.

Sex between men aged 16 and over was legalised in New Zealand in 1986 under the Homosexual Law Reform Act.

The most well-known opponents to the Act were the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a Christian conservative pressure group which claimed to have collected 800,000 signatures against the bill.

Last January the United Kingdom also gave posthumous pardons to thousands of men historically convicted of homosexual offences.

Those still alive can apply to the Home Office to have past convictions relating to same-sex relationships removed from their records

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